Genesis Group report cites challenges, success of remote learning

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The positive points as well as the challenges of remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic were cited by the Genesis Group of the Mohawk Valley region, in a review including feedback from some educators plus students,

Greater flexibility in arrangements for learning was among positive factors emphasized, while access to technology was one of the primary challenges noted.

The findings were part of the Genesis Group’s “Our View” initiative focusing on pertinent issues and opportunities in the Mohawk Valley. Among comments:

• Herkimer College Provost Michael Oriolo said “remote learning provided students with greater flexibility and more time to interact with the material in the course. Faculty were pushed to try new technologies that may be beneficial for their future classes.”

He further said “the challenges were mostly related to access to technology. Some students lacked access to high-speed internet at home, and some lacked appropriate computer equipment....Some faculty had lack of access to high-speed internet at home. Those faculty who had not previously been trained to teach online required more support to become proficient in this remote environment.”

To enhance remote learning, Oriolo called for “more synchronous delivery so that students and faculty simulate the face-to-face experience more closely. In order to be successful, our community needs to prioritize internet infrastructure to provide high-speed internet access to underserved areas.”

He added “we should not confuse emergency remote learning with strictly online learning,” noting the college “uses a variety of delivery methods to engage students through this emergency.”

• Molly LiBritz, Frankfort-Schuyler school district middle school principal and director of curriculum, similarly mentioned flexibility for students and teachers, observing “lessons are often...recorded which provide ongoing resources for students in which they are able to continue to reference as needed.”

Among challenges, she said, are limited internet access in rural areas, along with “lack of personal connections” in which students not having day-to-day communication with teachers and peers “can have a negative impact socially.” She also said “meeting all learning needs of students can be difficult through a virtual-only platform — our students learn in a variety of different methods which sometimes differ from sole technology.”

For future enhancements, “students and families need to have a strong
understanding of the teacher and course expectations, schedules, assignments, tasks and need to have continuous communication with their teachers, counselors, and other faculty members to ensure students are fully supported in areas in which they may miss from in person instruction,” LiBritz remarked.

• Most students who were contacted said they missed seeing friends, teachers, sports and having lunch in the cafeteria. The Genesis Group additionally said “other students have discovered that they prefer doing work at their own pace, set their own schedule and be free from a sometimes stressful environment at school.” Also, “for some students they spoke of challenges of remote learning, from struggling to understand assignments and
getting easily distracted to not having reliable internet.”

• The Genesis Group believes parents also have an important role. It said “parents should always be making sure their students are getting their work done, making sure they understand what their learning and encourage their children to ask questions. For remote learning to be successful, everyone needs to do their part.”

State decisions regarding potential school reopenings are expected in early August.

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